Why the NBA Shouldn’t Change its Buyout Routine

By: Evan M. Siegel

The NBA’s buyout system has come under significant scrutiny this season, particularly after a couple of aging stars signed contracts with championship contenders just after the trade deadline. LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin both ended up with the Brooklyn Nets, while Andre Drummond was scooped up by the Los Angeles Lakers. Almost immediately, complaints about how the system is rigged to help bigger market teams began to percolate. But there is no reason the NBA should adopt a new approach.

For starters, if a system geared towards matching buyout candidates with less competitive teams was adopted, fewer and fewer players would decide to give up some of their salary to go elsewhere. Drummond would likely not have lowered his compensation if it meant signing with the Dallas Mavericks or Memphis Grizzlies. The buyout system is one of the only recourses players and teams have after striking a large, albatross contract that is hindering both sides.

Second, the playoffs only get that much better when the most talented players in the league are all participating on the remaining teams in the tournament. It would do the league no good whatsoever if veterans looking for a more competitive situation still ended up missing the playoffs, and they’d lose the opportunity to have that very player on the floor on national television in the postseason. Drummond in particular is an interesting case, because his exposure will almost certainly boost his value exponentially.

The Pistons gave Drummond to the Cleveland Cavaliers for absolutely anything they could take. A second round pick was all that was received in return. He predictably opted in to his huge player option, anticipating a very dry free agent market. Now with the Lakers, Drummond’s value will go up purely as a result of him being on major networks in the biggest games of the year, doing the same things he did in Detroit and Cleveland. All in all, there is no reason for the league to change its buyout process.